There are many pressing employment issues that have been created by the coronavirus pandemic. Now that the vaccine has been widely available for months, many employees are left to wonder if an employer can ask about their vaccination status. This question is new to the law. There is not yet a single clear answer, but there are some important things to consider in addressing this issue.
In general, there are no laws that prohibit an employer from asking about employees’ vaccination status. There are also no laws that broadly prevent an employer from requiring workers to take safety measures in the workplace – up to and including vaccination. Whether you work for a public agency or private company, your employer may ask about your vaccination status. Most employers can also mandate that employees receive the vaccine as a condition of their continued employment.
This does not mean that there are no exceptions to the rule. Some states and local governments have passed rules that prevent governments from imposing vaccine mandates. These rules are very new. They also vary widely, and it is likely that not all of them will pass scrutiny in court. Because these rules vary so widely, it is important to get an opinion from an experienced employment lawyer about whether your employer’s vaccine mandate is allowed.
This does not mean that employees have no recourse whatsoever when an employer asks about their vaccination status. Most employers would prefer to work out a suitable alternative with their employees than spend huge sums of money in court or face the bad publicity of a disgruntled employee. Your employment attorney can help you devise the right strategy for your unique situation.
For example, someone might have valid medical reasons why they should not get the COVID vaccine. If your doctor has advised against it, your employer is more likely to understand than if you simply refuse to give your reasons for not being vaccinated. You might need to request an accommodation under the ADA in this situation.
An employer is also more likely to be willing to negotiate if you have a proposed alternative to ensure that your co-workers are safe. If, for example, you explain that you are willing to wear a mask at all times and submit to regular COVID testing, this helps to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the workplace (which is the employer’s ultimate goal).
Both the COVID-19 pandemic and related laws are changing quickly, so it is important to get your own legal advice about your rights in the workplace. The experienced Los Angeles employment lawyers at Olivier Schreiber & Chao LLP are here to answer all your employment questions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Call (415) 484-0980 or visit our website to schedule your consultation today.
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